Modal Scales: The Ancient “Church Modes” — Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Locrian & Ionian Modes


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Back in the period between roughly 1150 AD and 1400 AD there developed scales called “modes”, or “modal scales” (actually deriving from the Greeks some thousand years before.) And since music was centered in the church during that period they came to be known as “church modes.”

These modes haven’t been used very much for about 500 years, but now many contemporary musicians are using them as a basis for their compositions and improvisations. Listen to any “fusion” musician and you’ll hear the distinctive sound created by these ancient scales.

While these modes can be played in any key, you can get a feel for them by just playing the white keys on your piano at first, noting the relationship of half-steps and whole-steps and listening to the distinctive sound of each mode.

Watch this short summary video of the modal scales:


Modal Scales on Piano: Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, etc.

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